“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner was thrilled at the conclusion of the 2011 Writers Guild of America Awards Saturday night. Not only did the AMC show win best television drama series–for the third year in a row–but one of its writers, Erin Levy, took home the trophy for best episodic drama.
It apparently runs in the family. In her acceptance speech, Levy said that as a child, she had admired her father’s WGA trophy, which he won for writing “Seinfeld.” Her parents were among those grinning ear to ear in the packed Renaissance Hollywood Hotel Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland.
"I really didn’t think we would win," Weiner admitted after the show, referring to the fact that HBO’s freshman "Boardwalk Empire” has become this season’s awards darling, taking home the top episodic drama prize at the Golden Globes and best ensemble at the SAG Awards.
“Boardwalk” continued its winning streak by nabbing the WGA trophy for new series against “The Walking Dead,’ “Treme,” “Men of a Certain Age” and “Justified.”
The Los Angeles ceremony–a concurrent one was held by WGA, East at New York’s AXA Equitable Center–felt fun and fizzy, due in no small part to its hosts, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who play a couple on "Modern Family." They got the party started by performing a spoof song with the refrain "write it gay," and climaxing with “such cachet, an award from the WGA.”
And when it came time to name the best comedy series, they were right there to congratulate the writers of “Modern Family,” who took home the statuette for the second year running. (The competition: “30 Rock,” “Glee,” “The Office” and “Nurse Jackie.”) The show’s writers took turns apologizing to real-life people they’ve mined for comedic material, culminating with Steve Levitan’s lament, “I apologize to my children for not locking the bedroom door.”
“Rock” didn’t leave empty-handed. Robert Carlock won the prize for episodic comedy for an installment entitled “When It Rains, It Pours.”
In the long form original category, only two contenders duked it out, both on HBO, with “The Special Relationship” besting “You Don’t Know Jack.”
Long form adaptation nominees were, no surprise, also dominated by HBO shows, with two episodes of “The Pacific” and the teleplay of “Temple Grandin” competing against “The Pillars of the Earth,” which aired on Starz. Robert Schenkkan and Michelle Ashford won for part eight of “The Pacific” and dedicated it to the gunnery sergeant at the heart of the story who had won every top military honor for his service.
Stonestreet and Ferguson were no match for the current Ricky Gervais style of awards show hosting, but they tried–skewering Scott Buck of “Dexter” for doing Oxycontin in the men’s and ladies rooms, and giving screeners to his housekeeper. Nominee Gary Greenberg got a taste of the roasting for what the hosts called his “crystal meth factory”–presumably at the Jimmy Kimmel show–and for stealing Altoids from Matt Weiner’s gift bag.
Presenter Martin Short continued the illegal drug comedy motif as he and Catherine O’Hara gave out the hotly contested best comedy/variety series trophy to “The Colbert Report.” (And we can’t wait to hear Stephen’s take on it.) “There’s no bigger high than appearing on an untelevised award show,” Short said. “The only difference between you people and pharmaceutical-grade morphine is morphine doesn’t judge.”
Decades later, the “Murphy Brown”/Dan Quayle controversy over unmarried women having children came to life again as Candice Bergen presented the show’s creator, Diane English, with the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award, given to a television writer who has made outstanding contributions to the profession.
English used her comedic skills to great effect in her acceptance speech. “Hell yeah, I deserve it, “ she said, while bemoaning the fact that writers use most of their health care plan on mental health and that designers don’t make cocktail dresses with sleeves.
Amy Pascal presented Steven Zaillian with the Laurel Award for Screen, honoring lifetime achievement in writing motion pictures. His include the acclaimed “Schindler’s List,” for which he won as Oscar for his adaptation, “American Gangster,” “Awakenings” and “The Falcon and the Snowman.”
Other honorary awards went to Tonino Guerra, Susannah Grant and Seth Freeman.
“Inception” got the WGA’s top honor for original screenplay for its writer (and director) Christopher Nolan. He used his speech to reflect on how his “Memento” was ineligible for a guild award nine years ago–and how there were some notable scripts left off the table this year. He didn’t name names, but they include “The King’s Speech” and “Another Year,” both of which are Oscar nominees for original screenplay. “I hope next year the person who stands up here can give thanks without qualification,” he said, while offering his gratitude for the award.
On the adapted side, Aaron Sorkin won the prize for “The Social Network,” and it wasn’t the time for modesty. “I wrote a good screenplay,” he said, “but David Fincher made a great movie.”
A note for the history books: The WGA gave out its first-ever new media awards, for original and derivative writing. In that spirit, all attendees were given a webcam–a parting gift that could somehow assist the process of writing, or at least provide a welcome diversion.
To See a Complete List of Writers Guild of America Award Winners, Please Click Here.